Think about it: if you slapped a 7-10 inch screen and an almost full-sized keyboard on your smartphone, you’d basically have yourself a pretty serviceable netbook, no? In that spirit, Freescale Semiconductor will be showing off a prototype netbook design at CES running on the ARM platform that’s commonly found in mobile devices.
Perhaps the greatest feature would be theoretically low price points. The reference design that’ll be shown will carry an MSRP of just $199. Add to that much longer battery life (around eight hours or so) plus a thinner and lighter form factor, and things could get mighty interesting.
The platform is known as Cortex and the aforementioned design will come from Pegatron, which is an ODM (original design manufacturer) for Asus. Although Asus hasn’t said whether it would produce ARM-based netbooks for sure, a company rep told PC Magazine that "all the ODMs and all of the OEMs are evaluating netbooks in this category."
While Intel’s response has been that its X86 platform is preferable for use with web browsers and software that are specifically designed to take advantage of its architecture, the Cortex platform will run Ubuntu, using Firefox as the web browser, and is not aimed at replacing a PC.
The Cortex i.MX51 platform itself will consist of a 1GHz ARM chip, a dedicated DSP chip for MP3 playback, and two separate video chips — OpenGL for 3D and Open VG for 2D. It’ll be able to handle 720p video and can turn off all unneeded hardware while doing so, cutting the processor down to 50MHz, which should work wonders as far as battery life is concerned.
We’ll try to get a look at this thing up close at CES this week.